Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Whether you’re embarking on your first semester of campus life or returning for your fifth year, before you get the back to school party started take a few minutes to read eight things every student can do to better protect themselves from sexual violence and help reduce the number of sexual assaults on campus.

1. Trust your intuition; it’s your best defense. If you don’t trust someone or something there’s probably a reason. Listening to you inner voice can save your life.

2. Be prepared. Program any numbers that could aid you (or a friend) in a crisis or potential crisis into your cell phone in advance such as the counseling center, campus advocate, campus police, women’s center, resident assistant, etc.

3. Communicate. Have candid discussions with your roommates and friends about supporting one another, respecting your individual choices and keeping each other safe.

4. Express yourself. Be honest with your partner(s) about one another’s personal boundaries and know that it’s okay if they change.

5. Just 2 it. There’s nothing wrong with calling for back up. If you don’t feel comfortable walking alone ask a friend to join you or call a campus escort.

6. Use a DSP. If you choose to drink always have a trusted DSP (designated sober person). Discuss your boundaries and plans for the night in advance and stick with them.

7. Just say no. Do not have sex while you or your partner(s) are under the influence. Having sex with someone who cannot resist or say "no" because the person is drugged, drunk, passed out, unconscious, or asleep may be sexual assault

8. Speak up. One voice has power. If you uncover opportunities that could improve your campus/ community safety, speak up.

While there are things everyone can do to be proactive and make safety a priority it’s important to remember that no matter the circumstance sexual assault is never the survivors fault.

Helpful Vocabulary

Rape is forced sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal or oral penetration. Penetration may be by a body part or an object. Anyone may be a victim of rape: women, men or children, straight or gay.

Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact such as sexual touching or fondling that occurs without consent. This may or may not include sexual intercourse as some states use this term interchangeably with rape.

Date rape or acquaintance rape is generally defined as forcible sexual contact by someone known to the victim (a friend, date, acquaintance, etc.).

Drug-facilitated sexual assault is generally used to define situations in which victims are subjected to nonconsensual sexual acts while they are incapacitated or unconscious due to the effects of alcohol and/or other drugs and are therefore, prevented from resisting and/or are unable to give consent.

Monday, July 26, 2010

women supporting women

The word partner means a lot to both of us. We are very blessed to have loving partners at home who support our work and believe that if it takes an airplane to get us to where we need to be then they will be glad to hold down the fort until we return home. We also have been blessed with our friendship, which over the past 20 years has morphed into one of the most significant partnerships in each of our lives. So when we started to form partnerships through our work we thought long and hard about the standard. Do they have a strong value system regarding their work? Are they advocates for college students? Do they look to empower women? Would we be proud to put our name with theirs?

When the chance to form a partnership with Delta Gamma Women's Fraternity presented itself (read more here), we could not pass it up. Delta Gamma is a premier women's organization serving college age women and their alumnae. This is a new adventure for us but feels very familiar because for years, we have worked closely with members of the organization in chapters all over the country. Our Social Outreach Coordinator and former intern extraordinaire, Sabrina is a sister of DG and long before our blessed union took place they were supporting the No Woman Left Behind Campaign.

The philosophy of our work is that one student being sexually assaulted is too many and one student can help change their campus culture. So in the coming months as we meet more motivated DG's looking to be that "one student" who will leave her campus better than she found it we are filled with excitement considering the possibilities. We are honored and flattered to put our name with theirs and think it speaks volumes about a women's organization that is clearly committed to empowering their members and working to end sexual violence on campus.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

RAINN: The Secret

We've recently been given the opportunity to work with a group of girls who are younger than the high school and college age demographic that we're used to speaking with and so this PSA is expecially touching. While this piece is beautiful, encouraging and unfortunately necessary I can't help but have an extremely deep and irrational rage toward any person who would touch or harm a child in any way.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

little blue buddha

We moved into our new digs this week. Having a space aside from our respective home office’s feels good, strange, exciting and scary all at once, it’s kind of like when we moved into the dorms on campus together-- a new chapter in our lives with endless potential. Fast forward fifteen years and we are on chapter 27 or so and we’re roomies again! Sans the bunk beds, excessive use of contact paper and crate full of 10 for $1 Ramen.

We fully understand that an office is just a space, but right now it feels like so much more. It represents the next phase of our journey and with the help of many wonderful people who we respect, admire and adore, we are moving forward at full speed. Our for-profit work is taking an ambitious and creative ride. We’re partnering with several passionate people and organizations to share our message with the masses and help build a safer and more sexually empowered culture. Unite for Change is, well it’s changing. After years of wishing and planning the not-for-profit side of our work is now a much bigger focus. It feels like our professional dreams are within reach and that alone is worth celebrating. With a strict non-profit budget we decided on a small simple gift to ourselves to honor this new phase and sort of mark our new space, it’s a little blue Buddha statue that sits on our desk. It’s quirky, curious and absolutely perfect. The Buddha statue is said to symbolize enlightenment, belief and hope and while we don’t expect our teensy $5 desk ornament to be a sign of all these things it is a reminder that we will remain hungry for hope until everyone is fed.

Peace, love and enlightenment,

Thursday, July 01, 2010

New legislation will require cruise ships to carry rape kits and provide passengers with free, confidential access to 24 hour hotlines

Congratulations to International Cruise Victims (and especially our pal Laurie Dishman), Rep. Matsui and to all the cruise victims, survivors and their families who have worked tirelessly to improve cruise ship safety. We are one step closer because of you!

Cruise ship security bill clears Congress
By Emanuella Grinberg, CNNJuly 1, 2010 8:26 p.m. EDT

(CNN) -- A bill that requires cruise ships to tighten security measures and report alleged crimes is awaiting President Obama's approval.

The Senate on Wednesday passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, after it received broad bipartisan support in the House with a vote of 416-4 last year.

Peepholes on cabin doors, rails no lower than 42 inches and information packets on how to report crimes are some of the changes commercial cruise passengers can expect to see after the legislation takes effect. Ships built after the legislation's passage also must be equipped with security latched and time-sensitive key technology.

The bill, authored by Rep. Doris Matsui, D-California, and Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, applies to all ships that dock in U.S. ports. Those ships will also be required to immediately report incidents to the FBI or the U.S. Coast Guard, whether the incident occurs on the high seas or at port.

"Current law doesn't pass the test of providing common-sense security measures to the traveling public or to help protect them from crimes committed aboard ships," Matsui said in a statement Wednesday. "Moreover, current law does not provide the support victims and their families need in the event of a disaster. This legislation is critical to providing the security and safety measures that all Americans need and deserve."

The legislation originated with a letter from one of Matsui's constituents, who said she was raped during a Royal Caribbean cruise by a crew member in February 2006.

Laurie Dishman, who has gone public with her story before Congress, claims representatives of the cruise line made her collect sheets and clothing from her room and put them in a plastic bag. They did nothing more to help her, she said, and the FBI later told her that it would not investigate further because without proper evidence, it was simply a "he said/she said" case, according to her testimonial on the

Since then, a number of high-profile alleged assaults, disappearances and homicides have helped earn support for the legislation, Matsui spokeswoman Mara Lee said. Last year, a Los Angeles-area man was charged in July with murder in the death of his wife while on a cruise along the Mexican coast, and an Alabama woman celebrating her 50th birthday disappeared from a Carnival Holiday cruise ship.

Among the provisions in the bill related to sexual assaults: Ships are required to carry rape kits and a supply of medications to prevent STDs, along with medical staff trained to deal with assaults. The legislation also requires cruise ships to provide passengers with free, confidential access to 24-hour sexual assault hot lines.

Vessels also must keep a log of incidents and contact the nearest FBI field office "as soon as possible" after a homicide, kidnapping, assault or disappearance of a U.S. national is reported.

"Safety protections in this bill will significantly reduce passengers' risk of sexual assault and expand the rights of those sexually assaulted on board," said Scott Berkowitz, president and founder of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. "By connecting cruise passengers with the support services available through the National Sexual Assault Hotline and Online Hotline, this legislation provides a vital lifeline for victims on cruise ships."
Matsui's office worked with the cruise ship industry in crafting the legislation, spokeswoman Lee said.

"Having a law that's not going to be carried through wouldn't make sense, so we've worked with them to make very common-sense requirements that they can put in place," she said.

Many of the requirements have already been implemented by the cruise ship industry, which has been working for years to improve passenger safety, said Oivind Mathisen, editor and co-publisher of the trade publication Cruise Industry News.

"This basically means that procedures that they have been implementing for the last several years have been formalized," he said. "The industry supports it because it's in its best interest that procedures are set down, so in case something happens, everybody knows what to do and there are no gray areas."

Mathisen said negative backlash against the industry generated by the disappearances of newlyweds and young revelers is undeserved at times, considering that anywhere from 12 million to 15 million people board commercial cruises each year.

"If you look at the total numbers, relatively few people are lost at sea. In the big picture, the numbers are small. But we understand that when you lose a loved one, there's not enough the industry can do to prevent it from happening again."